“The monthly hormonal cycle of menstruation serves as a constant backdrop for the mental and emotional life of every woman, as well as being an important factor in her overall state of health. From the spiritual point of view, the days around the menstrual period are very powerful and auspicious for a woman to practice meditation and japa yoga.
The period commencing three days before the onset and continuing for five days of menstrual bleeding and the first five days of the new cycle is a time when a woman gains a heightened level of awareness naturally, by virtue of the altering hormonal balance. This is a time when her natural insight and intuition become very prominent, and it is a most powerful time for psychic awakening.” –Excerpted from Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Sarawati
I love this quote as it pertains to the relationship between yoga and our menstrual cycles. As we all know, our periods have a pretty bad rap these days – how many times have you complained about your PMS and the inconvenience of Aunt Flow in your life? Oh yes darling, I know. I think this quote is great because it provides a different perspective on the subject.
And that brings me to the topic of my post. A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be at my friend Dhyani’s workshop – Yoga for Your Moon Cycle. While I know a lot about helping women fix their periods through changes to food and lifestyle, I don’t know much about how yoga can alleviate many of the symptoms I treat. So when Dhyani asked if I would be her guest, I jumped at the chance to participate and learn more.
We started out by sitting in a circle (a healing circle) and introducing ourselves, why we were there and what we wanted to achieve. I am always amazed at how many of us struggle with similar issues around our periods. There were women in the circle who HATED their periods and as a result hated being a woman. Some had really heavy periods while others had no periods at all. There was even a woman who had had three surgeries on her fibroids.
After our introductions Dhyani asked us to answer just one question:
My period is___________?
I am in the business of loving my period, or at least loving what it represents, so my answers were mostly positive. Judging by the less enthusiastic answers of the other participants, I would say that period positivity is a bit of a stretch for most women! I totally get it, they probably wouldn’t have been in the workshop if they were in love with their time of the month. I’ve sooo been there!
We then delved into the various restorative poses that a lady can practice to make her periods more pleasurable. Here is a great little article that best describes my two faves:
Knees to Chest Pose
This pose relaxes the lower back and abdominal muscles, relieving tension and reducing period pain and low back pain. Lay on your back. Bring your knees to your chest, and rock from side to side if it feels good.
Butterfly pose is one of the most effective yoga poses for period pain because it stretches the hips and groin, and increases abdominal blood flow. Sit on the floor, bend both knees, and then bring your feet together. Press your knees towards the floor and hold your feet with your hands. Bend forward while inhaling and stay in this pose for as long as it feels good. This will increase the abdominal blood flow and will help address cramps.
Lay on your back, legs straight out. Bring your left leg up to above your hips, knee bent, and twist it over to the right side of your body. Hold your left knee down with your right hand, and extend your left arm out. Turn your head to look at your left fingertips. Hold as long as feels good. And then switch sides.
After that Dhyani led a guided meditation during which I totally passed out. Woops! Talk about timing…it was the day before my period so I was feeling the usual tiredness. And damn did that little trip to happy meditation land help!
Oh and I finally got the answer to the age-old question: “Inversions – to do or not to do during your period?”
Apparently this is quite a divisive topic in the yoga world. Some well known yogi’s say yay, while others say nay. Dhyani explained the reasons behind the various opinions and then proceeded to show us a modified version of the inversion 🙂 It involved doing the inversion in a series of steps rather than one big lift of the legs into the air. This allows you to do what feels right for you and stop when you need to.
Dhyani says “Modern life is complex and our period asks us to pause & reflect.” I could not agree more. Honoring the cyclical nature of our bodies is something women have done for centuries. During your next period try to take some time, whether it’s 15 minutes or a whole day (I know that might be a little impossible!) to do some of the poses above, meditate or reflect on the last month and think about what you want to accomplish during your next cycle.
So how would you fill in the blank below? Tell me, tell me!
My period is_____________?